Sunday, June 04, 2006

Tiananmen Square: Seventeen Years Later

Chinese police joined throngs of tourists in a crowded Tiananmen Square on Sunday, poised to head off any incidents to mark the anniversary of the bloody military crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations 17 years ago.

With checkpoints at entrances to the square and sentries at subway stops, the security presence in and around China's symbolic political heart appeared no more overt than usual.

But in line with the unspoken policy of ``wai song, nei jin'' -- relaxed on the outside, vigilant internally -- plainclothes policemen mingled with sightseers following their flag-waving guides, ready to pounce should one attempt to mark the day by unfurling a protest banner, kneeling to pray or laying wreaths.

The security ritual has occurred annually since June 4, 1989. That was when troops backed by tanks shot their way from the city outskirts to the edge of the square to end rallies for democracy that students had led there since mid-April when they had gathered to mourn the death of reformist leader Hu Yaobang.
As I wrote last year, where is the outrage. We're one year further removed from the uprising, and China's human rights record is no better now than it was 17 years ago. The New York Times piece that I cite in the heading comments on the Chinese government's response to minimize and restrict free speech with an overt and covert police presence- hoping to thwart demonstrations marking the uprising.

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